Influence of ocean and atmosphere components on simulated climate sensitivities

Michael Winton, Alistair Adcroft, Stephen M. Griffies, Robert W. Hallberg, Larry W. Horowitz, Ronald J. Stouffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The influence of alternative ocean and atmosphere subcomponents on climate model simulation of transient sensitivities is examined by comparing three GFDL climate models used for phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). The base model ESM2M is closely related to GFDL's CMIP3 climate model version 2.1 (CM2.1), and makes use of a depth coordinate ocean component. The second model, ESM2G, is identical to ESM2M but makes use of an isopycnal coordinate ocean model. The authors compare the impact of this "ocean swap" with an "atmosphere swap" that produces the GFDL Climate Model version 3 (CM3) by replacing the AM2 atmospheric component with AM3 while retaining a depth coordinate ocean model. The atmosphere swap is found to have much larger influence on sensitivities of global surface temperature and Northern Hemisphere sea ice cover. The atmosphere swap also introduces a multidecadal response time scale through its indirect influence on heat uptake. Despite significant differences in their interior ocean mean states, the ESM2M and ESM2G simulations of these metrics of climate change are very similar, except for an enhanced high-latitude salinity response accompanied by temporarily advancing sea ice in ESM2G. In the ESM2G historical simulation this behavior results in the establishment of a strong halocline in the subpolar North Atlantic during the early twentieth century and an associated cooling, which are counter to observations in that region. The Atlantic meridional overturning declines comparably in all three models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-245
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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